Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Ending Of Darby And The Dead Explained

Hulu's "Darby and the Dead" is a supernatural teen comedy that explores what it means to truly be alive — even if all of your friends are dead people. As a child, Darby Harper (Riele Downs) suffered a traumatic experience when a rogue wave drowned both her and her mother. Only seven years old at the time, Darby managed to come back from the dead following the ordeal. Her mother, sadly, did not.

After that harrowing experience, Darby began to see ghosts. She now aids those trapped between the realms of the living and the dead, performing tasks to help the restless souls to move on. She takes on the life of a loner rather than risk anyone finding out her secret, deciding it's better to be invisible than to be labeled a "freak." As a result, her social and personal life is basically nonexistent.

Darby's life is changed when the most popular girl at her high school, Capri Donahue (Auli'i Cravalho), dies suddenly by accidental electrocution. When Capri's ghost appears before Darby, Capri refuses to move on to the afterlife until she gets the "Sweet 17" party she always wanted. Darby reluctantly agrees to help her out, but in order to make sure that Capri's posthumous birthday celebration is the best ever, Darby has to learn to fit in with the cool crowd.

In Darby's journey to climb the social ladder, she learns more about herself than she ever knew. But are the changes she undergoes really for the better? Here is the ending of "Darby and the Dead" explained.

A lost friendship

Darby wasn't always a brooding teen who wears dark clothes and avoids social contact with everyone around her. Before her mom died, Darby was actually a cheerleader — and a good one, too. In fact, she began doing it while following in her mother's footsteps. When she was a teenager, Darby's mom won a cheerleading championship in the early '90s. But because she died when Darby was seven, it became too painful for Darby to continue the tradition.

Although they are now enemies, we learn in "Darby and the Dead" that Darby and Capri were good friends when they were children. Both girls were on the same cheerleading team as kids, as ghost-Capri points out from an old photo of the two of them in Darby's room. Yet as the years went on, the two girls grew apart. Darby became an outcast, and Capri went on to gain status and popularity.

The tragedy Darby suffered as a child changed her life in a number of ways, but perhaps the saddest is how Darby pushed everyone away — even those closest to her. By the end of "Darby and the Dead," Darby learns that it's better to be surrounded by people who care about you than to suffer alone, even at the risk of getting hurt. Ironically, it takes Capri's death for Darby and her to get close again. But, hey — better late than never.

Maintaining an image

High school is all about image, whether you're a jock, a nerd, a queen bee, or an outsider. Darby considers herself the latter — someone who just wants to be invisible and not make waves. She reasons that it's because of her ability to see ghosts, and she works hard to maintain the image of a lone wolf. She expresses as much to the new student, Alex (Chosen Jacobs), when he tries to befriend her on his first day of school.

Embracing her role as an outcast, Darby observes the other groups around her with a judgmental eye. Capri Donahue is her nemesis, the most popular girl in school whom everyone loves but Darby. When Capri dies and her ghost asks for Darby's help, Darby's outcast status is abruptly changed to that of queen bee.

In these days of social media, it's more important than ever for young people to maintain a high social status. Yet with Darby, her wanting to stay out of the spotlight is just as much of a challenge as those who seek to step into it. She wears dark clothes, she is sarcastic and unfriendly to popular kids, and she refuses to make friends with anyone — anyone living, that is. But the truth is that Darby works hard to keep up this image, even though it's not who she truly is inside. In reality, she is lonely and yearns to be loved, just like everyone else.

Isolation in the land of the dead

After Darby loses her mother, she retreats from the world of the living and finds solace with the dead. She even pushes away her father, who is concerned for her solitary life and well-being. Darby keeps busy running a home office for ghosts with unfinished business. They come to her for help with things such as leaving messages for loved ones left behind, so that these lost souls can finally move on.

Darby prefers the company of ghosts to the people around her, but it's a lonely life. Darby's closest friend is a ghost named Gary (Tony Danza), a middle-aged man who is waiting for his living wife to die so that they can move on to the afterlife together. When newcomer Alex enters Darby's life, she feels there is a connection between them. Yet she ends up pushing him away too, thanks to being distracted by her newfound popularity. At the end of the movie, Darby learns that Alex can see ghosts as well. Alex says that he tried to tell her, but she kept blowing him off and he never got a chance.

At first, Darby thinks that she is playing it safe by only being friends with dead people. By the end, she learns that putting yourself out there isn't as scary as it seems, and that making new friends is a worthwhile endeavor.

It's also lonely at the top

Capri Donahue seems to have it all. She's pretty and perky, she has a cute boyfriend, and she's captain of the cheerleading squad. Capri is the epitome of the teen movie "it" girl, including a shallow streak and a penchant for being a bully. Everything in her life is seemingly perfect, but it all disappears when her life takes a literally shocking turn: while in the girls' locker room at school, Capri dies from a terrible accident involving a straightening iron and a puddle of water. She returns as a ghost in Darby's house and threatens to haunt her until Darby agrees to help with her unfinished business.

As Capri and Darby get reacquainted with one other, Darby learns that Capri's life wasn't as gifted as it may have seemed. During a deep conversation between them about Darby's mother, Capri confesses that she wished she'd had a mom like hers. In fact, Capri admits that her own mom told her that Capri would have to get through life based on her looks rather than her brain, insinuating that Capri's only good quality was her physical appearance.

Believing her mother's cruel words, Capri has worked hard to maintain her high social status in order to gain the approval of those around her. But being the most popular girl in school isn't all it's cracked up to be, and maintaining that facade makes it impossible for Capri to show her true self.

The reinvention of Darby Harper

After years of living an isolated life, Darby finds herself reluctantly thrust into the spotlight. In order to help Capri conduct her unfinished business so that her soul can move on, Darby has to throw the ultimate memorial birthday bash. The only way to get everyone involved is for Darby to come out of her shell and make friends with the popular crowd. Capri assists by picking out Darby's clothes, helping her style her hair, and getting her on Instagram. She also helps Darby prepare for the cheerleading tryouts, which is a surefire way to get her noticed.

Despite Darby kicking and screaming throughout the ordeal, Capri's advice works out swimmingly and Darby makes it into the popular group. After being in the shadows for so long, her newfound acceptance gives Darby a much-needed confidence boost. Even though she had previously made fun of the other kids, Darby finds herself enjoying being part of a group for once. Unfortunately, she does get carried away by all of the attention she receives. In time, she almost forgets the reason why she began this whole campaign, which was to help Capri.

Darby experiences a drastic change when she goes from being invisible to taking Capri's place as the most popular girl in school. Although she does let things get out of hand, Darby learns that there are good things about joining the crowd. For one thing, it's a good way for her to make friends; for another, it helps her to learn to sympathize with others by learning from their personal experiences.

The court of social media

For teenagers, the only real way to have a social life is to be on social media. Capri knows this and gets Darby online. Unfortunately, Darby is naive to internet culture, so Capri instructs her on how to take the perfect selfie by teaching her about the right angles and poses. She also teaches her how to correctly use emojis, and how important it is to use as many filters as possible.

After Darby makes the cheerleader tryouts, word spreads fast on Instagram and she earns over 750 followers. In response, Capri tells her, "Congrats, you're almost becoming a real person." She goes on to teach Darby about "humble-bragging," being "woke, but not a woke fisher," and that being moody online is fine, but being sad is "cringe." All of these rules are overwhelming for Darby, who points out that being friends with dead people is less exhausting than being coy on social media.

As Darby learns the ins and outs of Instagram, her newfound online influence helps her to get one step further to her goal. She is finally accepted into Capri's old friend group and convinces them to have a memorial birthday party in Capri's honor. The girls then put together a video of Capri's best moments and post it online to get the word out about the party. It soon becomes apparent that Darby's presence on social media is integral to her and Capri's plan. Without it, and Capri's help, Darby would never be able to pull it off.

Controlling the narrative

Once Darby makes it into the popular crowd, the party planning goes into full swing, including a DJ, a mansion on the lake, and even a dove. The trouble comes when Darby begins to take credit for everything, and the party starts focusing on her rather than Capri. When the news hits that Darby has been nominated for Homecoming Queen, Capri turns on Darby in jealousy.

When Darby gets close to Capri's old boyfriend, James (Asher Angel), things really start to take a downward turn. Even though they're just friends, things get out of hand following Capri's death. When the two are seen holding hands in the hallway at school, everyone misinterprets the gesture as a budding romance between them. In turn, Darby's friends berate her for going after Capri's man, although Darby insists that she has no intention of doing so. It all comes to a head when James confesses his crush on Darby in front of Capri, sending the teen ghost into a rage. 

Although her newfound social status may set Darby on the path toward helping Capri, it backfires quickly thanks to rumor and gossip. It may not be Darby's fault at first that people are giving her credit for Capri's party, but she doesn't do much to correct them. She's too busy enjoying the ride to set the record straight. However, this causes a rift between her and Capri — not only deterring Capri's spirit from moving on, but also threatening the friendship between them.

Smells like teen spirit

"Darby and the Dead" culminates at the big memorial bash for Capri's birthday. Although she tries to stay away, Darby ends up at the party with James, who wants to properly say goodbye to his old flame. Capri quickly begins wreaking havoc, first by setting off fireworks early and then making a ouija board fly around the house. It's clear that Capri doesn't want Darby at her party, and she is now set on making Darby's life miserable.

When Darby starts talking to Capri's ghost in front of the crowd, she finally decides to come clean. She announces that she has the ability to see ghosts and that she owes all of her popularity to Capri. Darby is also finally able to admit to everyone — including herself — that her "hating" on everyone else was just a way to hide her own insecurities.

At the end of her speech, the crowd resumes partying as if nothing had ever happened. Even the next day, everyone has their own version of events to explain the weirdness of the night before. As for Darby, she goes back to being a social outcast, proving that the opinion of the masses is very easily swayed. Though she ends up humiliated, Darby does come away from the experience having learned a valuable lesson. In the end, she realizes that being popular is only a temporary thing, and what really matters is being honest with yourself and the ones you care about.

The absentee ghost mom

The catalyst for Darby's unique ability was when she technically died at the beach on the same day as her mother. After Darby came back to life, she first started seeing ghosts at her mother's funeral, and they've been appearing before her ever since. Yet strangely, Darby has never seen her mother's ghost in all of that time.

After the disaster at Capri's party, Darby goes back to being an outcast at school. However, Capri returns to Darby's home to apologize for her behavior, saying that it was wrong of her to try and change who Darby was in the first place. As a token of apology, Capri finds Darby's mother (Kim Syster), and the two are briefly united. It's a tearful reunion as Darby's mom explains that she has been watching Darby from afar for all these years. She tells Darby that she is her unfinished business, and that she has been waiting and hoping for Darby to open up her heart again.

The movie doesn't explain why Darby's mom hasn't visited her before this, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If she had come to Darby while she was still closed off from the world, it would have hindered Darby from making any progress at all. For years, Darby has been living in the past and not allowing herself to make new relationships. Once she is able to find her self-confidence and let the walls around her come down, Darby fulfills her mom's unfinished business, and presumably allows her spirit to move on.

A life better lived out in the open

In "Darby and the Dead," Darby Harper undergoes a major transition from the beginning of the movie to its ending. At first, Darby has allowed the grief of her mother's death to take over her life and keep her from truly living. Being friends with ghosts guarantees that she won't endure the same heartbreak she experienced when her mother died. Forming relationships with living people is a much bigger risk. She judges everyone at her school harshly, and anyone that she does form a connection with, she pushes away from her.

Everything changes when Darby agrees to help Capri's ghost with her unfinished business. Although Capri's initial motives are selfish, she does help Darby to open herself up to new things, including new friendships. Without Capri's help, Darby would never get back into cheerleading, a sport that she had truly loved and been good at. Darby also wouldn't learn to have sympathy for popular kids like Capri, or understand the personal hardships they endure to win the approval of others.

At the end of the movie, Darby has found the confidence she needs to make real connections with people, and is unafraid of the risks that come with it. Capri is able to move on to the afterlife, and Darby can now move on with her current one.